Al Jazeera focuses on the challenges of air travel into Western Libya. Over the past year, al Jazeera reports that Haftar’s forces have targeted Mitiga Airport, Tripoli’s only international airport on a near daily basis. Foreign airlines stopped flying directly into Mitiga some five years ago, and must fly in and out of Misrata airport, a three hour drive from Tripoli. One civilian pilot said that the experience of flying into Tripoli is terrifying, despite government attempts to protect the airport, while passengers caught inside during an LNA shelling campaign described chaos and terror in the airport.
Misrata airport must now contend with some 5000 passengers daily, a near 10-fold increase since fighting escalated last year. Tripoli’s GNA government is calling on the international community to punish Haftar for targeting a civilian airport, and warned it may have to change its strategy and “go on the offensive” to push Haftar’s forces away from Tripoli.
The LNA has consistently defended its attacking of Mitiga Airport by pointing out that Turkey, who backs the GNA, uses it as a military facility to launch its drone strikes in the ongoing conflict.
Turkish media is reporting that GNA forces report killing 23 LNA fighters in fighting in Southern Tripoli. The sources say that 9 GNA soldiers were also killed in the fighting.
Fighting continued and intensified throughout the weekend, as Tripoli residents reported the heaviest shelling since the January 12 with artillery fire heard and black smoke seen near the city centre and Mitiga Airport, Tripoli's only functioning international airport. Authorities had to suspend civilian flights once again as the LNA targeted the airport, over Turkey’s alleged use of the facilities for military purposes. A hospital near the airport was forced to evacuate some of the patients due to the fighting.
The GNA said its bombing of 11 targets on LNA territory was in retaliation for the LNA attacks on Tripoli and Mitiga airport. The GNA said that Haftar’s forces launched over 60 rockets at Tripoli, 25 of them at the airport. GNA health officials said 21 civilians including women and children were killed since January.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame (who just days later announced his resignation), called this a “very serious truce violation” and called on the sides to respect the ceasefire. He also said that bombing of civilian neighbourhoods “may amount to war crimes”. Salame condemned what seems to be a GNA drone strike in LNA-held territory that killed a family of 5. The LNA said it shot down at least 6 Turkish-operated drones, although this was not verified.
Salame further drew comparisons between the situations in Libya and Syria, including some of the same players active in both conflicts. He pointed out that he “believe(s) that there is a mutual integration between the two conflicts that is not favourable for peace in either one".